Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Whether or Not There is a Unified "Reform Movement," They've Benefited from the Impression There Is

A couple points on the "Is There A 'Corporate Education Reform Movement?" question.

  • Reformers writ large may not be homogeneous, but they have tried to create and benefited from the perception that they are a social movement addressing the "civil rights issue of our era." They meet and plan in private, keep their policy disputes mostly out of public view, and maintain good message discipline. They operate under a formidable umbrella of public relations and elite opinion making.
  • On the other hand, it is a big enough tent that any part can be disclaimed by the whole or any other part at any point. Talk to someone from a KIPP school and whenever they want they can just say "I've never seen that at a KIPP school I worked at, and they're all different, so I don't know," and that's the end of that thread. Or "We're not the ones closing your neighborhood school, we just happen to be opening a new school in the same building the following year!"
  • The real mess comes out when you pile onto that the internal contradictions within individuals and interest groups. Standardization or innovation? Both! Collaboration or competition? Both! De-regulation or re-regulation? Both! Is it the "joy factor" or "no excuses?" Choice? As long as it is all the same. Can we use "multiple measures?" Yes, as long as they all give the same result as the tests! Is RIMA in favor of cross-district desegregation or bussing the suburban poor into the city? Actually, both! Does RIDE even like the mayoral academy concept? Yes and no! We agree the current tests stink but the ones that don't exist yet will be awesome. If the Commissioner misses all her targets for state NECAP scores, should she be held accountable when her contract is up? Heck no!

Up to this point, power, money and public relations has allowed all this to work to the "movement's" advantage. The cracks are appearing, however, and the drawbacks of the above are becoming more apparent.

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